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BBC2 documentary series Once Upon a Time In Iraq scored a double win at the Grierson Trust Awards, while film-maker Adam Wishart hailed his collaborator Serena Kennedy, winner of The Talent Manager Grierson Hero of the Year.

Keo Films’ five-part series took home both the best history documentary and best documentary series awards. Judges declared it “a masterclass in casting” for looking beyond obvious choices of contributors to find “credible and conflicted characters”.

Other notable winners include:

Yinka Bokinni, who was named best documentary presenter for Acme Films’ Channel 4 doc Damilola: The Boy Next Door – “a deeply personal and original film about what happens when you bury grief”;

Silverback Films/WWF Productions’ Netflix film David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet, which won best single documentary (domestic) – “visually arresting, attention-grabbing documentary filmmaking”;

Public Square Films’ BBC4 doc Welcome to Chechnya: The Gay Purge, winner of best current affairs documentary – “mind-blowing, with phenomenal access to brave central characters” with “innovative and exemplary use of digital deepfake”;

Marble Films’ BBC4 doc Locked In: Breaking the Silence, best science documentary – “sound design and edit were incredibly powerful, making the film appear almost as an art installation at times”.

Serena Kennedy

Introducing Kennedy’s award, Wishart declared: “Every documentary is a triumph for production management.”

Describing her as his “hero”, the director outlined the lengths she took to get acclaimed BBC/Apple co-pro 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room over the line.

The doc required 56 pages of Covid protocols during its 15 weeks on the road in the US, with Kennedy regularly navigating UK and US schedules while locked down in the West Country.

When she was asked to scale back production to produce a more modest film, he recalled, “Serena would pull out one of her 26 iterations of the budget.. and say it wasn’t possible, there is only one film to make – it is bigger than you think, and you’ll only get the access to the President and others if we think scale.

“Those were creative a decisions – born out of wisdom, experience, and the craft of understanding the numbers  - as important as any of the countless editorial choices that we made along the way.”

The ceremony was live broadcast on YouTube and can be viewed here

For a full list of winners, click here

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